Thursday, April 12, 2018

In short: Slumber (2017)

Doctor Alice Arnolds (Maggie Q) is working as a researcher and therapist in a sleep lab. She does have the appropriate childhood trauma to cause her interest in this kind of work, as mandated by movie law, for when they were children, her little brother jumped to his death while sleepwalking. Or really, as it will turn out when a family, the Morgans, come to her for help with a shared sleepwalking problem that finds all of them sleepwalking and doing creepy and potentially violent stuff, was killed by the demon known as the Nigh Hag.

For a while, Alice tries to keep to a scientific and medical view on the family’s problems, but as strange things are happening all around the Morgans, she is soon starting on a way that might cost her life or at least her career.

Jonathan Hopkins’s Slumber is a very entertaining entry in the sub-genre of sleep paralysis horror. It’s not the most carefully plotted film, and its monster design – once we get to see it – certainly isn’t very good at all, but there are quite a few things to recommend it. Firstly, it does contain at least three truly creepy scenes concentrating on what the night hag makes the Morgans do in their sleep, suggesting a shadow of abuse, self-mutilation and violence hanging over an apparently perfectly functional family, very much giving the impression of something praying on unconscious – or at least unspoken - psychological issues and tensions the supernatural is only bringing to the surface. Hopkins is also quite adept at staging dream sequences that feel like dreams, with strange and somewhat disturbing non-sequiturs, a talent that (surprise!) comes in very handy in a film about a dream demon.

Secondly, there’s a pretty fantastic scenery-chewing outing by Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy as an elderly, drugged up, former night hag victim with a fascinating taste in clothing, and some neat eye-mutilation scars that turns a Joe Exposition role into pure, if absolutely grotesque, joy. Somehow, whatever it is McCoy is doing (having fun, it looks like, at the very least) doesn’t break a film full of earnest, competent performances by everyone else but enhances it considerably.

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